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Interview: Last Dinosaurs

I’ll be perfectly honest. I did not know about Last Dinosaurs before the advertising for their South African tour was dotted along my Facebook news feed. The first taste I got was the video for their most recently released single, ‘Andy’,  from their debut album, ‘In A Million Years’. Fast forward to me strongly suggesting that you click on old ‘Andy’ there. The song and video hint towards tasteful indie aesthetics. They’re not generic nor are they pretentious. They’re just fun and make you feel good. This made perfect sense after I caught up with them after their soundcheck at The Assembly before their show this past Saturday.

20131002 Last Dinosaursimage: Stewart Innes

Last Dinosaurs is Sean Caskey (vocals and guitar), Lachlan Caskey (lead guitar), Dan Koyama (drums) and Mike on the bass (Mike is touring in place of recently departed Sam Gethin-Jones and unfortunately his surname is nowhere to be found on the Internet). I chatted to Lachlan and Dan about being signed, travelling around the world and the irony of acquiring an awkward scar by trying to escape an awkward situation.

MR: You guys are a young band, already signed and touring the world. You’ll notice that the culture of being signed in South Africa is not yet a reality yet. The scene is growing rapidly, but isn’t nearly big enough for bands being signed to simply be a result of due process. Australia would be much different I imagine, as the music industry there has been established for quite some time now. How did you guys find the process of starting out and then taking the significant leap to being signed? 

LC: Yeah, sure, but even for us in Australia, it still doesn’t compare to the US. But in some way it is easy to get into the spotlight, because we’ve got a national radio station called Triple J, and they just upload a whole bunch of unsigned bands to get radio plays. But I dunno, we only played for about a year before getting signed. It was just sort of a blur really.

MR: And did you play a lot in that year?

 DK: Nah, but I would say that our process was pretty gradual compared to most bands. A lot of bands being signed now play for about 6 months and then suddenly they’re quite big. Whereas for us it’s been pretty steady.

20131002 Last Dinosaurs 2image: Stewart Innes

MR: In terms of you guys being booked to play here, what was that process like? And with it being fairly uncharted territory for bands to tour, as well as being expensive, has it turned out to be worth it?

LC and DK: (Resounding) Aaaah yeeeah. Absolutely.

LC: The thing is, even though it is expensive for us to get here, as long as we’re not losing tons of money, it’s manageable, and the experience has just been phenomenal. I mean none of us ever thought we’d come to South Africa for any reason and, yeah, it’s just an awesome place.

MR: That’s great man, and how’s it been so far? How was the show in Joburg last night?

DK: Surprisingly good, yeah. I thought it was gonna be a bit rusty, ‘cause we were pretty jetlagged for the first couple of days. And that was like the third day we were here, so we were just kind of getting into the swing of things and we played pretty late. But it was good! There was a decent crowd and some people actually knew who we were (laughs). We didn’t even know if anyone would know or like our music, but they did and it was great.

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MR: Did you guys know of any South African bands before coming over?

DK: Nah, only Die Antwoord really.

(Laughs all round)

DK: It seems like they’re the only South African band to have really made it.

MR: Ja, on a large, global scale that is definitely true.

LC: Yeah, but when we got here we heard a lot of Shortstraw being played on the radio. Like, we heard a lot about them and then met them when we played together. They were cool, yeah, they were really good.

MR: Ah rad, ja, they’re good fun. You guys are a young band and it seems like you’ve done an extensive amount of touring. How do you guys handle the pressures of touring versus the fun side of touring?

DK: Umm, yeah it’s tiring, but only in certain blocks. For the past year we’ve been pretty chilled, there hasn’t been a long period of constant playing. But I mean, even when it is tiring, the benefits of being able to do it far outweigh any downsides.

MR: Ja, and I can imagine that in those periods where you are playing constantly, one of the major benefits is being able to find out what really works for your sound, especially live. I mean, that’s where real money is gonna start being made again –  live shows – so being able to play a killer live show is crucial. Have you guys found that touring and playing a lot has helped you develop a really strong live show?

LC: Yeah, I mean, we’ve toured with another Australian band, Papa vs Pretty, from Sydney. They’re a three-piece rock band, actually a four-piece, but yeah, they just put on an extremely enthusiastic show every night. And, I dunno, we’re not the most consistently energetic live show, but I think we’re more focused on the delivery of the music. But they played like night after night, and we would get pretty tired, but we learnt a lot from them, ‘cause the tour we did with them was pretty long.

MR: Cool. Something I’ve noticed about you guys, which is quite refreshing, is that you have a pretty distinct style and it’s your own, but it’s not forced. You know, with the internet and again, the issue of saturation, a lot of bands take the route of creating a gimmick or being super far out. I know for your first album you guys wanted to emphasise your musicality. As time has gone on has that remained a conscious effort or has it just been a natural process?

DK: Yeah, I’d say we’ve just down our thing man.

LC: Yeah, well, the way it works with most of our music is that Sean writes the foundations for the songs and then we all contribute in whichever way we can. Sometimes someone does more on one song and someone does more on another. But we all just get Sean’s music and we’ve known each other for a long time, so yeah it’s not forced at all.

20131002 Last Dinosaurs 4image: Stewart Innes | courtesy of The Assembly

MR: Ja, you say you’ve known each other for a long time, since high school I think. How do you guys deal with the different waves of chemistry and band dynamics, personally and creatively?

DK: Yeah, I think it’s been pretty easy for us, ‘cause we don’t really have any explosive characters in the band, we’re all pretty relaxed and deal with each other pretty similarly.

LC: Yeah, I mean when we tour Australia it’s a bit different, ‘cause it’s not a foreign environment for us to be stimulated by, so it’s less avoidable then. But when we’re overseas, it’s a lot easier to distract yourself, being able to invest your mind into taking in the surroundings. Like today, just looking at Cape Town, going around and seeing Table Mountain. It kind of just relieves things.

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MR: And along the lines of chemistry, in terms of creativity and influences, do you guys all listen to similar stuff?

DK: Yeah, I mean everyone’s got their own thing, but we listen to pretty similar stuff, but the scope is pretty broad at the same time. Like if something’s really good, we all agree that it’s good. But yeah, there aren’t any real contrasts.

MR: Could you give some examples?

LC: We’re all big Tame Impala fans…

MR: Have you guys played with them before?

LC: Yeah, but only at festivals. But yeah, I think an early influence that we all really liked and I think really shaped our sound in the beginning is The Strokes. But yeah, Dan and Mike are both really into hip hop as well. So yeah, the scope is pretty broad.

20131002 Last Dinosaurs 5image: Stewart Innes

MR: Cool. So what’s the weirdest/most hectic/most awkward thing that’s ever happened with a fan or groupie? Every band seems to have some story where some weird things go down…

DK: (snickers)… Aaah Brighton…Yeah, there was this one girl in Brighton in England who… How old was she?

LC: She was like 19, but she looked like she was 13 or 14…

(laughs)

DK: Yeah, it’s not going where you think it is, but yeah she just kind of followed us around. You know, a bit too much. And she told us all this personal stuff like right off the bat. But that was probably like the only time that it got really awkward…really quickly.

LC: Yeah, this stupid scar that I have here (points to right eyebrow)… It actually got to the point where I was running away, like trying to get away from her in a really like tight, old hotel building. I was a bit drunk and I just ran into a door. Like the edge of the door. It had just gotten to the point where it was so awkward. That was definitely the most awkward.

20131002 Last Dinosaurs 6image: Stewart Innes | courtesy of The Assembly

MR: (Laughing) Ja, that sounds like all of the awkward. Um, so for the future, you guys are working on your second album at the moment. How’s that going?

DK: Good, yeah really good. It’s definitely got a different kind of sound to it.

MR: And any idea when it’ll be out?

LC: Hopefully early next year…

DK: Yeah, it’s still being written so it’s kinda hard to tell, but hopefully early next year.

MR: Sweet. So, the typical musician’s dream is along the lines of being able to write music all day and not have to worry about anything else. Do you guys write and play full time? Has being signed allowed you that freedom?

LC: Only just recently. Like even though we’ve signed for 3 or 4 years, it’s really only in the last year that it’s been properly full time and where we’ve actually been able to scrape by living on it.

DK: But we still work…

LC: Yeah… I’m a barista.

DK: And I’m rockin it in a crappy little mag store (laughs).

LC: Yeah, it keeps us grounded.

DK: Yeah it gives us something to do when we’re not doing music. It’s good; I enjoy the occasional trip to work… The occasional trip.

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